Alli Ortega Empty Bowls uses arts-integrated workshops to teach students the artistic skill of creating bowls and the civic responsibility of caring for our community. Once created, the bowls are auctioned off at an annual event with proceeds benefiting Scottsdale Community Partners and the city of Scottsdale Human Services programs for youth families and seniors in crisis. 

Grades: 4 and up
Cost: free to Scottsdale schools
Interested in participating? Email us at [email protected].

Scottsdale Community Partners (SCP) will hold their annual Alli Ortega Empty Bowls Fundraiser at the Scottsdale Family ArtsFest at SkySong on March 21 – 22, 2025. Bowls crafted by SUSD students will be available for purchase. Funds raised will support all SCP programs, in partnership with the City of Scottsdale Human Services, such as the Vista del Camino Food Bank, Back-to-School, and Healthy Packs weekend food program for SUSD students.

Empty Bowls Program History 

In the early 1990s, Janet Blum, a visual arts teacher at Coronado High School, created a partnership between her afterschool art club and Scottsdale Community Partners founder Francis Young, Vista del Camino, and the Paiute Neighborhood Center as a way of involving the students in their community and planning how they can give back. The student’s passion for philanthropy inspired them to bring the international Empty Bowls fundraising program established by Michigan art teachers Lisa Blackburn and John Hartom to their school to support the Vista del Camino Food Bank. The students would make ceramic bowls and partner with a local vendor to fill the bowls with food and sell them at the event. Attendees contribute by purchasing an artist’s handmade bowl which represents those that go hungry each day. Meals are provided and guests celebrate making a difference in their community. Thirty years later, several of the original students and their families still support this event. 

A local Scottsdale resident Alexandra “Alli” Ortega worked as a recreation leader at the Paiute Center as a beloved youth mentor. In April 2014, at the age of 31, Ortega passed away unexpectedly due to complications from surgery. Her kind heart and giving nature are honored every year through the Alli Ortega Scottsdale Empty Bowls fundraiser. 

Scottsdale Arts Learning & Innovation—a branch of Scottsdale Arts—provides artist residency workshops in Paradise Valley School District and Scottsdale School District classrooms at Scottsdale Senior Citizen Centers, Vista del Camino, and Delta Kappa Gamma Women Educators meetings. 

Empty Bowls is a true Scottsdale partnership; partner organizations include the city of Scottsdale mayor’s office and city council, Scottsdale Community College, Scottsdale Unified School District, Paradise Valley Unified School District, Scottsdale Community Partners, and Scottsdale Arts. 

Empty Bowls is supported by Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community and in partnership with Scottsdale Community Partners.